MysteryPeople Double Feature: RAGE IN HARLEM by Chester Himes

MysteryPeople Partners with Authors & Auteurs for Return to Normal: A 50s Film Noir Film Series

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

rtn series

For the past few years, MysteryPeople has highlighted some of our favorite noir cinema based on crime fiction, with discussions following each screening to discuss the book and film. This year, MysteryPeople’s Double Feature film series is partnering with the Author & Auteurs Book Club for a summer of films highlighting the injustices and rot beneath the glamorous veneer of 1950s America. We’re kicking it off with a screening of A Rage In Harlem, Chester Himes’ seminal 1957 crime novel adapted into director Bill Duke’s 1991 movie, this Sunday, June 4, at 2 PM. In some ways the relationship between book and film contradicts the usual film adaptation.

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MysteryPeople Double Feature: GET CARTER (based on JACK’S RETURN HOME by Ted Lewis)

 

 

The MysteryPeople Noir Double Feature Series, where we screen a film adaptation of a classic roman noir and discuss the film and book, continues this upcoming Monday, August 8th, at 7 PM on BookPeople’s 3rd floor. The screening is free and open to the public! You can find more information about the film series here

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Ted Lewis’ Jack Returns Home and director Mike Hodges 1971 adaptation, Get Carter,  released two years later, was a one-two punch from across the pond. We thought of British crime fiction as genteel drawing room whoddunits, before. Both book and film paved the way for crime stories in both the country’s medium that rivaled their American counterparts in the seventies for grittiness.

The film veers little from the book’s plot. Jack Carter, the member of a London criminal firm, returns home to bury his brother. His bosses, one whose wife Jack is sleeping with, tell him not to poke around. Of course if he followed orders, it wouldn’t be a hard boiled crime story, so instead he creates a trail of brutality, getting closer to a devastating revelation that leads to more brutality.

The differences between the book and movie are minor, yet create interesting nuances. Hodges decided to make Carter’s home town the seaside Newcastle instead of the nameless northern factory town Lewis used. The dreary greyness and sound of the ocean wind provide a bleak mood even in the day time. It also provides a great set piece for the final showdown. Also, due to the need to compress the story, there is little about the Fletcher Brothers, whom the far more competent Carter works for and is planning to set up. One can’t help but think of the Kray brothers who introduced a new level of violence to the London underworld in the Sixties. The film presents his bosses as faceless men, not that different from buffoonish corporate execs. Either way, Carter operates as his own man.

Get Carter brings Ted Lewis’ book to grungy cool life. Hodges’ documentary style creates a tough, cold tone you’d see in British crime films for the rest of the Seventies and into the Eighties. Michael Cain, in an uncompromising performance and Saville row suit, gives us one of the most iconic anti-heroes. If that isn’t enough, composer Roy Budd designed a cool crime hero theme second only to Shaft.

Double Feature Stats

Adherence To Book

4.5 out of 5

Adherence to Quality Of Book

5

Further Reading

GBH by Ted Lewis, Blue City by Ross Macdonald, Past Crimes by Glenn Erik Hamilton

Further Viewing

Hitman (blaxpoitation version), The Squeeze, Blue Ruin

Fun Fact

Following the film’s release, barmen in Newcastle got sick of being asked for drinks “In a thin glass!”

MysteryPeople Double Feature: REBECCA

  • Post by Molly Odintz

Come by this evening, Monday, June 13th, for a screening of Hitchcock’s classic film Rebecca, based on Daphne du Maurier’s novel of the same name, followed by a discussion of the film and book. The screening is the first of our Noir Double Feature Film Series, where we screen film adaptations of the crime fiction we love all summer long.

To prep for the screening and discussion, I picked up du Maurier’s novel a few days ago, expecting to read just enough before the screening to stumble through discussion afterwards. Instead, I finished the novel in two sittings, staying up late on my night off from work and unabashedly involving myself in one of the greatest romantic suspense stories of all time. Hitchcock’s film is fairly faithful to the original novel, and that’s a good thing – the novel is as gripping and surprising as the film, and the two compliment each other; the film merely manifests in image what du Maurier described in the novel so well, including the lush, forbidden landscapes of Manderley, subject of the novel’s famous first line, “Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again.” Also, Daphne du Maurier passes the Bechdel test throughout the novel, including every conversation between Mrs. Danvers and the second Mrs. de Winter.

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MysteryPeople Brings Back Free Noir Double Feature Film Series

Last summer, MysteryPeople brought you free screenings of five films based on some of our favorite romans noirs, followed by discussion of the book and film. We screened Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity, his adaptation of James M. Cain’s classic novel,  Purple Noon, René ClémentCarl Franklin’s Devil In A Blue Dress, based on Walter Mosley’s first Easy Rawlins book, and Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone, adapted from the Daniel Woodrell novel

Now, we are proud to announce the return of MysteryPeople’s Noir Double Feature Film Series for summer 2015. Starting Sunday, April 26, we will bring you five of our favorite films based on five noir classics. Screenings are free and open to the public and start at 6:30 PM on BookPeople’s third floor. We’ll be profiling each film/book combination closer to each screening, but here’s an overview of each film we’ve chosen for this year’s screenings:

laura picsSUNDAY, APRIL 26 6:30 PM

SCREENING AND DISCUSSION

OTTO PREMINGER’S 1944 ADAPTATION OF VERA CASPARY’S LAURA

Vera Caspary’s 1942 novel Laura was just one of many complex psychological mysteries by Caspary to be turned into a Hollywood film, but Laura may contain her most emblematic femme fatale of all. Come discuss this lesser known hard-boiled classic before a screening of the rather more well-known yet equally fascinating film. Copies of Laura are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

spy who came in from the cold screeningSUNDAY, MAY 10 6:30 PM

SCREENING AND DISCUSSION

MARTIN RITT’S 1965 ADAPTATION OF JOHN LE CARRÉ’S THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD

 John le Carre’s classic spy novel The Spy Who Came In From The Cold celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and the film and novel, with their prescient plague-on-both-houses story-lines, have only gotten better with time. Join us for Richard Burton and Oscar Werner’s electrifying performances in the film, followed by a discussion. Copies of The Spy Who Came In From The Cold are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

pics for screening MarloweSUNDAY, MAY 24 6:30 PM

SCREENING AND DISCUSSION

MARLOWE, PAUL BOGART’S 1969 ADAPTATION OF RAYMOND CHANDLER’S THE LITTLE SISTER

In this neo-noir from 1969, James Garner plays Chandler’s Marlowe in one of the stranger adaptions of a Chandler novel. Come join us May 24 for a discussion of The Little Sister and a screening of Marlowe, the 1969 adaption of the book. Copies of The Little Sister are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

pics for screening coup de torchonSUNDAY, JUNE 7 6:30 PM

SCREENING AND DISCUSSION

COUP DE TORCHON, BERTRAND TAVERNIER’S 1981 ADAPTATION OF JIM THOMPSON’S POP. 1280

Jim Thompson’s Pop 1280 gives us one of the most chilling looks into a killer’s mind ever written, and Coup de Torchon beautifully adapts Thompson’s novel, changing the setting from the American South to French Colonial Algeria. We picked a French film in celebration of International Crime Fiction Month, which we plan to celebrate in a variety of ways, including international crime fiction pics for all of our book clubs.  Copies of Pop. 1280 are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

pics for screening walk among the tombstonesSUNDAY, JUNE 21 AT 6:30 PM

SCREENING AND DISCUSSION

SCOTT FRANK’S 2014 ADAPTATION OF LAWRENCE BLOCK’S A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES

Lawrence Block’s Mathew Scudder series is one of our most beloved in the mystery section, and we are pleased to bring you Scott Frank’s recent addition to the noir canon, his adaptation of A Walk Among The Tombstones. Please join us for a film screening and discussion of the novel. Copies of A Walk Among The Tombstones are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.


Keep an eye out on our blog for more in-depth looks at each of the books and films as we get closer to each screening. A full list of the film series can be found on our website.

Down and Dirty in the Country: A Quick Look at Rural Noir

Noir is a genre usually identified with the city. Concrete and steel cut off our anti-hero, throwing an endless shadow over him or her. At the same time, however, authors were also looking at the darkness, isolation, and evil in small towns or farms. When we weren’t looking, the sub-sub-genre of rural noir took over like kudzu.

The roots of rural noir come from the Southern Gothic authors. One could argue that William Faulkner was an early practitioner. As I Lay Dying uses many noir tropes with a stylized point of view, family secrets, dark humor, and a bleak look at class. Flannery O’Connor is another author whose influence shows itself in the works of current rural noir authors. Her use of religion and perspective of evil can be seen in the work of Jake Hinkson in such modern classics as Hell On Church Street

“Noir is a genre usually identified with the city…at the same time, however, authors were also looking at the darkness, isolation, and evil in small towns or farms.”

One of the first great examples of rural noir is James Ross’ They Don’t Dance Much. Using Southern speech, much like Chandler used the Southern California dialect, Ross tells the story of jack McDonald, a failed farmer who ends up running a road house owned by schemer Smut Mulligan, who later pulls Jack into a robbery and murder. A power play ends up between the two involving Lola, the wife of the town proprietor Smut is having an affair with. It took the James M. Cain noir structure and themes and put a country spin on it.

Jim Thompson wrote many tales from the city, but some of his best dealt with shady small town lawmen. The Killer Inside Me, still one of the most chilling books ever written, features West Texas deputy and psychopath, Lou Ford. Lou pretends to be a dim hick, who mainly tortures the town citizens, many with their own dark secrets and agendas, by talking in cliches and platitudes. When he develops a brutal relationship with a prostitute, he and the town both violently spiral downward.

“…the violence almost becomes redemptive in this black satire on small town culture and bigotry…”

Thompson took the bad lawmen to new heights in the Sixties with Pop. 1280. MysteryPeople screens Coup de Torchon, French director Bertrand Tavernier’s Algerian-set film version of the Pop. 1280, on Sunday, July 7, as part of our Double Feature Film Series. Screenings will be followed by a discussion of the book and film, and all screenings are free and open to the public. Nick Correy is the lazy, philandering sheriff of a small Southern town during the Nineteen-Teens. When he’s challenged in an election and kills to stay in the lead, we learn how smart and dangerous he is. What is odd is how Nick keeps his genial tone and how the violence almost becomes redemptive in this black satire on small town culture and bigotry. It is interesting to note that Thompson’s father was an Oklahoma sheriff who was caught embezzling when the writer was young.

The author who truly opened the door for rural noir was Daniel Woodrell. Originally writing about Rene Shade, a police detective in a corrupt Louisiana parish, in his Bayou Trilogy, he later moved his settings to the Ozarks, were he was born and raised, in such novels as Winter’s Bone (screened last year as part of our Noir Double Feature Film Series) Woodrell’s novels are somewhat the country cousins to George Pelecanos’ D.C. novels, including the recently released and critically acclaimed The Martini Shot: A Novella and StoriesWoodrell and Pelecanos both create character-driven stories, where criminals are motivated by extreme poverty and drugs (crack for Pelecanos, meth for Woodrell) plague an entire community. Woodrell dives into his stories on a personal level with a poetic prose style. The beginning paragraph of Tomato Red, with its page-long, run-on sentence, is work of great humor and craft. He delves into the lives of the working class and the poor from his area, inspiring a wave of other writers to use their rural background in their noir.

“…rural noir has a strong lineage, an established canon, and the manifest destiny to travel down every back road and tell its story…”

Several of these writers inspired by Woodrell have already established themselves in the rural noir cannon. Frank Bill built a reputation through his short stories dealing with hard men and harder women pushed to the brink of violence and beyond, exemplified in the collection Crimes In Southern Indiana. His debut novel, Donnybrook, is about several characters and the trail of blood they leave behind as they head to a bare knuckle fight. Donnybrook shows how meth in the Midwest has fused the drug and culture together. Another great take on the subject is Matthew McBride’s relentless A Swollen Red Sun. McBride sets a Missouri county aflame when a deputy takes seventy-two thousand dollars from a meth dealer’s trailer in a moment of weakness. The book is reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest in its look at how a corrupt society destroys itself. Benjamin Whitmer’s anti-heroes get ping-ponged from their country homes to the city, trapped by their violent compulsions, developed of necessity but leaving his characters isolated and alone. Both of his books, Pike and Cry Father, are emotional gut punches.

the genre of rural noir is expanding rapidly, and it has room to do it. Both David Joy and Jamie Kornegay have shown new back roads with their novels Where All Light Tends To Go and Soil. Jamie Kornegay joins us Monday, May 4, for Noir at the Bar at Opal Divine’s. Frank Wheeler, Jr.’s debut, The Good Life, set in rural Nebraska, hopefully ushers in a long career writing great rural noir set in Midwestern wastelands. We also have yet to see many female writers and authors of color embrace the sub-genre. As rural noir grows in self-confidence and acclaim, I hope to see many more diverse voices in the genre, but already, rural noir has a strong lineagean established canon, and the manifest destiny to travel down every back road and tell its story. Like Hank William’s country boy, the genre can survive, and even thrive.